As Kaua’i Humane Society executive director, Shannon Blizzard is determined to find homes for all animals that need one and calls for community support for the effort
Shannon Blizzard loves all things feathered and furry. The animal admirer is Kaua’i Humane Society’s newly appointed executive director, and she’s on a mission to improve the nonprofit’s efforts to help put an end to pet homelessness.
“This is a people problem, not an animal-created problem, so it’s solved by people,” she says.
Blizzard, who has two dogs and two cats of her own, adds that animal homelessness is not a problem that can be solved by just one person or a single organization.
“It takes your entire community working together,” says Blizzard, who with husband Mark has two children, Graham, 2, and 10-month-old Kyndall.
Focusing on educating the community about issues such as the importance of adopting pets rather than purchasing them from breeders is one of the many goals she intends to accomplish while taking the reins of the island’s animal welfare organization.
Encouraging spaying or neutering of pets is also part of her resolution. If that wasn’t a problem, “we wouldn’t be in business,” says Blizzard, who lives in Wailua where she is getting familiar with Kaua’i wildlife, including chickens and pigs.
If residents were more aware of the importance of spaying and neutering their pets, some 7,500 animals might not have to come through the nonprofit’s doors every year.
“I would really love to work myself out of a job,” admits Blizzard.
That would mean helping residents keep their furry friends, as well as increasing adoption rates of shelter pets, which are always spayed or neutered and microchipped before embarking on the journey to their homes.
“These animals are not broken, they’re just homeless,” she says about the many faces with hopeful eyes peering out from cages at the Puhi shelter.
There are misconceptions about animals that are brought to shelters.
“As a humane society we see those cases of neglect and cruelty and abuse, but that’s not the average pet that comes through every day,” explains Blizzard. “That’s the one that gets all the media attention and helps bring awareness to the cause. But at the core of it we’re here to save lives, and these animals are healthy, happy, well-adjusted adoptable animals, and that’s really what I want people to understand.”
And while they await happy homes, Blizzard aims to provide the animals with as much comfort and care as possible.
“Every day you have to think outside the box on how to make that work,” says the Missouri native, who advocated for animals in Arizona for six years before coming to Kaua’i to take on her current position.
Each animal has different needs and realistic expectations must be set, as they won’t all be comfortable in their new situation.
“I hate to see fearfulness be a death sentence,” says Blizzard, who has seen many cats and dogs that lived in shelters for years overlooked because they weren’t the right color or did not bounce at the feet of potential adopters.
Giving animals a second chance at life is something Blizzard is accustomed to. Prior to arriving on Kaua’i, she served as director of operations at the Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Her most memorable experience during her four years of employment at the Phoenix organization was when she found the perfect companion for a 6-year-old girl named Allie who was afflicted with terminal cancer.
The dog was a Chihuahua mix atrisk for euthanasia at another shelter because of his fearful behavior.
He was shaking and crying and “absolutely scared out of his little mind” when Blizzard drove him over to the girl’s house. But as soon as he was set on the floor of his new abode, he wagged his tail and immediately nestled in the girl’s lap, staying by her side for the duration of her life sadly, only some five to six months.
“I’m telling you, it was one of the most rewarding matches,” says Blizzard, who spends her free time crafting, reading and cooking. “This dog was given a second chance, and he provided so much comfort and love and companionship for this little girl.”
Prior to initiating meaningful bonds between people and animals, Blizzard was a corporate trainer for Pet Resorts a national high-end boarding, training and day care facility.
While it was “always about animals” for Blizzard, who hid kittens in spare bedrooms at her childhood home, it was at Pet Resorts where she had the epiphany that helping animals “was the thing that made me tick.”
“I loved working for Pet Resorts, but when I came to Phoenix for a promotion, I really wanted to tap into the animal welfare market of new adopters,” says Blizzard, who studied nonprofit business at Lindenwood University and wanted to be a veterinarian, but prefers the “parts of animals that belong on the inside to stay on the inside.”
Little did she know she’d soon find herself on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled that the position came in the location that it came in,” says Blizzard, whose family has been enjoying the beaches and luscious scenery of Kaua’i ever since the first day they arrived more than a month ago. “We’re just pinching ourselves that we don’t have to leave.”
Though there is much to be done at Kaua’i Humane Society, Blizzard is up to the challenge because while she may not be able to save the world, she vows to help as many critters as possible.
“We’re going to try to save as many lives as we can, and if that means I end up with a couple in my office that need a little bit more time, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Visit Kauai Humane Society’s revamped website at kauaihumane.org.